A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY DINNER

The planning of my beloved’s Birthday dinner went all backwards. First I settled on the dessert, covered in my previous two posts. You know, the dessert that almost killed me. Then, I chose the side dish. Rice. Rice for a Birthday dinner? Yes. But let me explain. Ever since I met Phil he talks about this Persian rice his roommate used to prepare when they lived in their communal house. I call those times his hippie-days, I’ve seen pictures, and can tell you he was almost as handsome then as he is today. Back to rice. It is very traditional in Persian cuisine, countless ways to make it, probably each family has its own way, like feijoada for Brazilians. The ultimate goal is to produce a golden crust at the bottom of the pan, which when the rice is served, ends up on top. You break that crust and enjoy it with the perfectly cooked and perfumed rice underneath it.  I don’t know why it took me so long to finally make it at home, but better late than never. And with the side dish decided, I picked a main dish to match:  chicken thighs braised in Middle-Eastern spices, cooked with dried apricots and prunes. Green beans tied it all together…

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So let’s start with the rice. The crust (tahdig)  in this case was a mixture of butter and grapeseed oil, which has a very mild taste, and helps prevent the butter from browning too much. That would make the rice bitter. Some recipes elaborate on this simple concept by making the crust with thin slices of pita bread, for instance. Or using yogurt, even potatoes. A nice culinary project to play with. I ended up using inspiration from several sources, but kept it simple, butter it was.

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CHELOW (PERSIAN RICE)
(adapted from several sources)

1 + ¾ cups Basmati rice
2 Tablespoons salt for cooking rice
A pinch of saffron strands
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp very hot water
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp grapeseed oil

Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear, then leave to soak in a large bowl of water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes. The grains should still be pretty firm at this point. Drain, rinse briefly with cold water to prevent it from cooking any further. Reserve.

Make the saffron infusion by using a pestle and mortar to grind the saffron strands with a pinch of sugar and salt, then dissolve it with the very hot water.   Leave to steep for a few minutes. To make a plain tahdig for this amount of rice, you need an 8-inch nonstick saucepan with a snug-fitting lid. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the grapeseed oil over medium heat on an 8-inch nonstick pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of the saffron liquid. When the oil is hot, sprinkle a thin layer of rice over the bottom and firmly press it down, covering the bottom of the pan. Carefully lay the rest of the rice on top, allowing it to form a domed shape at the center. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a few holes in the rice, almost reaching the bottom of the pan.

Place the remaining tablespoon of butter, cut in little pieces, in the holes you formed.  Sprinkle the rest of the saffron liquid on top of the rice, then put either a tea towel or four layers of paper towels on the surface, tucking the edges in. Cook the rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down, as low as your stove will go, and cook for 15 minutes longer.  Take it off the heat and allow it to sit for a few minutes, while you fill your sink with a couple of inches of very cold water.

Place the saucepan in the water. That will loosen the crust at the bottom, and should allow you to un-mold it nicely.  Take the lid off, put a large plate on top, and without hesitation, flip the pan over to release the rice on the plate. If all goes well, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful rice “cake”, a nice crust on top of perfectly cooked Basmati rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wanted to follow the recipe quite closely, so I was compelled to get a mortar and pestle for it. I know, life can be tough. But the Force was with me, because Marshalls had a few for sale – cannot beat their prices –  in fact they had two kinds, and I brought one home with me. The method of choice to deal with saffron in Middle Eastern cuisine is to crush it with a little sugar and a little salt. Water then is added to solubilize it as best as possible, and that beautiful golden liquid is used in the recipe.

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My heart was beating fast when I un-molded the pan, but it worked like a charm!  That crust is simply addictive. Even though Phil was the guest of honor for obvious reasons, I put up a mild fight for the real crusty bits, after all, I slaved away at the whole menu. Carioca Cake, remember? That should give me bids on 85% of the rice crust. But because I am of magnanimous nature, I settled for 60%.

Now let’s move to the main dish…

chicken

CHICKEN BRAISED WITH APRICOTS AND PRUNES
(adapted from The Saffron Tales, pressure cooker optional)

Grapeseed oil
2 shallots, finely chopped (or 1 large onion)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
1 + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 + 1/2 cups chicken stock (approximately)
12 dried apricots
12 prunes
good pinch of saffron
pinch of sugar and salt
2 tablespoons very hot water
lemon juice to taste (a tablespoon or so)

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan and fry the shallots over very low heat until golden brown, take your time and allow the deep flavors to develop. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt, add to the saute pan with the caramelized shallots, then add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon,  turmeric and black pepper.   Cook until the chicken is golden on all sides, then transfer to a pressure cooker. Add one cup of stock, if it almost cover the meat it will be enough, if not add another half a cup. Close the pressure cooker and once it reaches full pressure, cook for 18 minutes.  In the meantime, add boiling water to the apricots and prunes in a small bowl, and let them sit to soften slightly. At the end of 18 minutes, release the pressure running the pan under the faucet with cold water.

Grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar and salt in the pestle and mortar and then transfer to a cup and leave to steep in very hot water for 2 minutes.

When the chicken is ready, add the softened fruit, along with the lemon juice and the saffron liquid. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes with the lid off, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Adjust seasoning and serve over rice, or another side dish of your choice.

No pressure cooker? Use any heavy pan with a tight lid and cook the chicken for about 40 minutes, until very tender, then proceed with the addition of fruits and saffron liquid.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

sauteeing

Comments: Most important step of this recipe, taking your time to caramelize those shallots (or onions, if you prefer). I used the pressure cooker because I love the texture it gives to the meat, and also it speeds the preparation so much. But, you can definitely use a regular pan. This is a recipe that gets better next day, so you can make it in advance. I actually made it in the morning and we enjoyed it at dinner, when all I had to do was warm it up, and take care of the Persian rice and the green beans.  It was a delightful meal…

birthdaybw

One more Birthday celebration together!
Great food is mandatory, dressing up is optional… 

😉

a-special-persian-dinner-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

TWO YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

SIX YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

CARIOCA CAKE, THE FINAL CHAPTER

(Missed the first chapter? click here)

This is the kick-ass cake by definition, although it could also be described as yet another cake that kicked my ass. But I won’t keep you curious for much longer. There was a happy ending to the epic saga, Phil was over the moon, told me it was the best cake I ever made!  I don’t care if he was embellishing the truth, let him. I need all the positive feedback I can get, because crossing the end of this marathon was no piece of cake. Forgive the lousy pun. Without further ado, here is the result of my ordeal adventure…

carioca-cake

FINALLY, MY CARIOCA CAKE!

What? Where is that herringbone pattern, you may ask?  It is not there. I went with swirls. Why? Because it is a much sexier name.  I see you are not buying it. Let me be honest instead. By the time I got to the ganache decoration, I was in such state of emotional turmoil, that the idea of manipulating a knife could prove dangerous to my physical integrity. Indeed, the herringbone pattern is best applied with a long serrated knife. Swirls are made with the back of a spoon. Has anyone ever been harmed by a spoon? Granted,  there is that gag me with a spoon saying,  but a spoon covered in luscious chocolate ganache would gag no one. I skipped the knife, and went with the spoon. Zero worries.

The coffee syrup. I did not have that much trouble with it. It is pretty straightforward, just spectacularly messy a bit messy. You simmer a huge amount of finely ground coffee (2 full cups) in a small amount of water and pass it through a double layer of cheesecloth, that may or may not spill over during the process. Essentially, you are making the strongest coffee ever, so strong that if you take a small sip you’ll get cross-eyed. The eyes will uncross after a few minutes, and the lips will also revert to their normal shape. Phew…

cofeesyrup

The chocolate mousse. That’s when things got chaotic. Mr. Hermé’s timing completely messed me up. You need to coordinate the beating of heavy cream with the making of a syrup that shall reach 257 F. According to the master, it would take 8 to 10 minutes. I was a bit involved with the melting of the chocolate, but kept track of my timer like a hawk. At 6 minutes, instant thermometer in hand, it already seemed too dark.  I let go a couple of highly colorful words, removed the syrup quickly from the burner, and poured it into a Pyrex bowl.  The whole thing solidified like a rock right in front of my eyes. Congratulations, Sally, you went pass the soft ball stage all the way into Titanium Land. You are now ready to start all over. My beloved entered the kitchen when he heard my screaming and once I explained the unfairness of what had just taken place, the man I married almost 17 years ago told me the following;

“My Grandma never left the side of the stove when she made sugar syrup.”

I will give you a moment to let this sink in. Without going into details, I’ll just say that he got a sharp lecture on how irrelevant, tactless, borderline cruel his remark was. “Maybe you’d like me to go ask for your Grandma’s advice right now in the after life?”  He denied. Profusely. Approached me to offer a hug, but added a don’t be silly that was definitely uncalled for. Hug aborted. Talk about a festive Christmas mood.

Now, have you ever had to wash hardened caramel from a Pyrex container? Oh, that is loads of fun, I highly recommend it when you need to redeem yourself of things like real nasty thoughts. For instance those I had going towards Mr. Hermé. Come to think of it, in a recent past I also directed dark thoughts to Thomas Keller for his fancy-schmancy macarons. But that’s another saga, left to another time.

So I was back to square one with the darn mousse, trying to re-negotiate the beating of the cream with the new syrup, and the melted Valrhona chocolate in waiting. This  time, I stood by the stove like a certain Grandma – although I will never ever admit, not even under torture, that her grandson had anything to do with my changed behavior. The mousse materialized with some imperfections. I detected a slightly grainy texture because I suppose the temperature of the melted chocolate was a little off after the whole drama. But what do I know? And at that point, did I even care?  Some could call it grainy, I would go with rustic.

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With all the components ready, I took another deep breath, grabbed a cake ring, and proceeded to slice the genoise, and assemble the final cake. I used toothpicks and dental floss to help me cut thin slices. Worked like a charm, I had to mentally pat myself on the back (hands were pretty messed up with chocolate stains). The Carioca calls for a bottom layer of cake soaked in coffee syrup, then mousse, then cake, then mousse on top. Straight to the freezer until the final step: coating with ganache, decorating it, and sticking the almonds on the side.

soaking

The making of the ganache. I’ve made ganache a gazillion times. I own it. I can make it in my sleep. For this particular coating, the ganache needs to sit at room temperature for a while until it sets. That’s when I got greedy. I decided that I had more than enough time to drive to a store in town that I heard was selling several kinds of bottled shrubs. I placed the cake and the ganache on top of the highest cabinet in the kitchen, which even if Bogey was part-dog, part-giraffe he could not reach. And off I went to get my shrub.  When I got to the store, it seemed closed. Through the glass window I noticed a couple of very agitated people inside, they came out briefly and said they were having computer issues. “Can you come back in 5 minutes?”  Sure, no problem. When they finally opened, 11 and a half minutes later, I picked one of their shrubs, Apple Ginger, and went to pay. The “computer troubles” were not over. The person working the cash register, a very nice German woman in her mid-fifties, was a nervous wreck, shaking a little as she could not get the machine to read my item, enter the price or do whatever it is that the machines must do these days. It was her second day on the job, in this tiny grocery connected to a big liquor store. The manager of the liquor store was the only one able to help, but he was busy with customers, so let’s say things were taking a sweet time to happen. The clock was ticking, I really needed to leave, almost told her to forget about my shrub, but she was in such distress, it would ruin her day further if I left. So I plastered a smile on my face, and said, in a performance worthy of Meryl Streep:  “I have all the time in the world, don’t worry about a thing” and stood there, like the Martyr Baker that I am.  By the time I got  home, the ganache was hard. Ready to be rolled as truffles (sigh). And I was fit to be tied.

Some very gentle microwaving, very gentle stirring, a little more waiting for the right magical temperature (114 F) when I finally poured the ganache all over my cake… But I could not, simply could not bring myself to attempt the herringbone. Long serrated knife? At THAT point of my life? Not wise. Honestly, I just wanted the cake to be on my rear view mirror. I went with swirls, then stuck the roasted almonds all over the sides, licked the spoon clean and collapsed on the sofa. Which, in retrospect, describes the end of almost every single cake I make. Except for the licking of the spoon. That was a first.

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And now for what matters most: how did it taste? It was absolutely wonderful! The coffee flavor is quite pronounced, a perfect match for the chocolate mousse (delicate and light, with underlying notes of rustic) and the ganache coating (real intense chocolate flavor). The almonds on the side did not look particularly beautiful, but they added a pleasant texture. Maybe if they were crushed instead of kept in slices it would work better from a cosmetic point of view.  My only other modification of Hermé’s recipe would be topping the Carioca with a cake layer instead of mousse. That would make it a bit easier to slice and eat. The genoise component would easily give three slices for the final cake, so my advice would be to use a third, thin layer of genoise on the very top. Then cover it all with the chocolate ganache. If you are feeling brave, go for the herringbone. According to my friend Gary, Patissier-Extraordinaire, you can practice with Crisco. I cringe imagining what my kitchen (and my hair) would look like after the combination of Sally + thick layers of Crisco + cardboard circles + long serrated knife. I will allow your imagination to take over…

guilty

That’s all for now, folks. I survived the Carioca Cake,
and so did our marriage!

Isn’t life grand? 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

TWO YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough 

THREE YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

SIX YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

THE UNBEARABLE UNFAIRNESS OF CAKE BAKING

A tale of cakes, dogs and tears

My beloved’s Birthday falls on December 27th. Since he was a child, he felt it was a bit unfair to have his special day buried in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a day that was born to be ignored. But certain things do improve with age, and now he feels it’s perfect: the university is pretty much closed, he can work as much or as little as he wants, it is a Birthday in the middle of a small vacation break. A nice way to view it. This year we would be by ourselves on his big day. I told him I would cook a special dinner, and then had this crazy idea: offered to bake any cake he wanted. Did you get this? Sally, the cake-o-phobe offered her husband to bake ANY cake he fancied. I was reasonably confident he would choose one of his childhood cakes, like Chocolate Cake with Coconut Frosting, or his grandma’s legendary Angel Food Cake. I was wrong. He did not even blink, asked me where was “that book.” You know, that book…”  I knew, but pretended not to. “Of course you know, that book by the French guy.”  I seriously considered telling him the book was lost during our move to Kansas 5 years ago, but how could I lie to my perfect match about something as important as his Birthday cake? I couldn’t. Sheepishly, I went upstairs, grabbed the book,  gave him, and sat down, already with a cold feeling in the stomach. “That guy” is Pierre Hermé. “That book” is Desserts by Pierre Hermé.

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Before my blogging life, I made one cake from the book, also for Phil’s Birthday, a Chocolate Dome Cake that shaved at least 24 months from my life expectancy. It required three visits to the grocery store, the first to get the ingredients, the second to get a few more eggs, and the third (in complete distress) to get the final dozen. So, of course, I was beyond worried when I handed the book aka How To Kill Yourself in Your Own Kitchen. He opened it, and in two seconds flat screamed: I FOUND IT!  I WANT THIS ONE!  He managed to open the book at random on the page featuring Carioca Cake. Can you imagine the odds on that?  Mind you, I am not carioca, but paulista. Paulista Cake would have absolutely zero charm, which is a bit unfair. Cariocas get all the love, fame, attention. Would Tom Jobim ever make a song about The Girl from Vila Mariana? Not a chance. Oh, well. São Paulo is close enough to Rio, let’s not split hairs.

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Now, ask yourself which other food blogger would give you a free lesson in geography? You are so very lucky. Anyway, as I was saying, I took a very deep breath and read the recipe. FIVE components. The first, a genoise cake. My heart missed four beats. My nemesis. My most feared cake in the universe of cakes, the cake that embarrassed me in front of special guests, the cake that made me swear off cake baking for years. I cringed anticipating the disaster ahead. Apart from the genoise, it also required a coffee syrup, almonds roasted in cocoa syrup, a chocolate mousse, and a chocolate ganache. As a bonus, you also need skills of an Iron Chef to make the authentic decoration on top. Can you spell unfair? This is what the finished product is supposed to look like.

photoherme11Can you spell doomed too?

I immediately texted my friend-patissier-guru-golfer extraordinaire Gary, and asked begged  for help. In fact, when he visited us a couple of years ago he was kind enough to make a genoise cake right in front of my eyes to help me exorcise my inner ghosts. Gary sent me a few emails with reminders, pointers, videos and basically told me “you can do this.”  And you know what? He was absolutely right. Look at my production!

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GENOISE CAKE – RECIPE OVERVIEW

I will not publish the recipe, as I do not want to deal with the process of asking permission from Mr. Herme’ or the publisher. Obviously, all genoise recipes are very similar, the success of baking it is all in technique. His formula calls for

2 ounces of unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
6 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 + 1/2 cups flour, sifted

You will beat the eggs and sugar over simmering water until they reach a temperature of 130 to 140 F, then beat the living bejesus out of it until it triples in volume.  Once you get there – and the batter falls like a ribbon from the beater – you’ll add the flour and the butter, in specific ways described by Hermé, hoping not to deflate the batter too much. You’ll need to be delicate and assertive, quite a combination of skills. The batter is poured into a 9-inch springform pan, and baked in a 350 F oven.

If all goes well, you’ll be rewarded with a perfect starting point for your Carioca Cake.

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Comments: I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I removed the cake from the pan and realized I had finally done it. I overcame my demons and managed to bake a perfectly gorgeous looking genoise cake! The extended version of the happy dance took place mid-afternoon on December 24th. The cake would wait until next day when I would proceed with the preparation, in plenty of time for the Bday celebration.

That evening we were going to cook our Christmas Eve meal together, so we put some music on, and let the fun start. I briefly mentioned to Phil that we should make sure to keep the sliding doors to the dining room closed because “I left the genoise over the table, and you never know with Bogey what could happen.”  Phil laughed, I laughed, and that was that.  Not sure how long after that innocent remark, I am in the kitchen and I hear Phil from the dining room, scream with intense pain in his voice… “Oh, no!”   I swear my first thought was “David Bowie is already dead, could it be Neil Young?”  I walked in, and realized no beloved singer had passed away. But a genoise cake had definitely passed to another dimension.

disaster

I confess, I sat down and cried. My perfect genoise. Gone. Instead, I had a dalmatian sleeping off his sugar coma, still with a smile on his face. Carioca Cake was brutally kidnapped from my life.

But, as the sun does every day, it rose again next morning. Phil had washed the cake pan for me, took care of the many crumbs left on the dining table and washed the table-cloth. All signs of the canine crime were gone, apart from that smile still on Bogey’s face, and his sudden obsession with the dining room table. I did the only sensible thing to do: started all over. And once more, I have the thrill to share my second – perfect – genoise, made 36 hours after the first.

genoise2

Thanks to Gary and a very mischievous dalmatian also known as The Fastest Mouth in the West, I can tell you I permanently erased the Curse of the Genoise from my life. Bring it, Pierre Hermé, bring it….

Unfortunately, he did bring it….

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(to be continued) 

ONE YEAR AGO: Hermit Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

THREE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

FOUR YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

FIVE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

SIX YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

 

TWO UNUSUAL TAKES ON ROASTED VEGGIES

I guess it is the season to turn the oven on at high temperatures and help the house stay warm. Do I like this weather? What do you think? I despise it. BUT, I do love roasted veggies, so I try to concentrate on that instead of the fact that someone decided to make repairs in the heating system of our building and the labs were freezing from Christmas break all the way through the first week of January.  I could see my breath while working, and confess to snapping at a couple of colleagues who had the nerve of greeting me with a  “Good morning, Sally.”  Anyway, I digress. Roasted veggies are a beautiful thing, and today I share two recipes, both delicious, but the second one, the second one blew my little mind away! I kept munching on those little morsels of deliciousness and beating myself for never trying them before.  Without further ado, Roasted Pears and Parsnips and…. drum roll… drum roll increasing…. drum roll at maximum blast:  Roasted Radishes. Now, do not leave. Do not. Even if you hate radishes with all your being. Trust me. You need to roast them. You just do.

roasted-parsnips-and-pears

ROASTED PEARS AND PARSNIPS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1-1/2 lb. parsnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 firm pears, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs.  olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss the parsnips and pears with the oil, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Toss with the vinegar and Herbes the Provence. Adjust seasoning and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I was composing this post, I noticed a new blog entry by my dear friend Maureen, from Orgasmic Chef. She professed her love for Jacques Pepin (we are twin sisters, obviously) and included a short video with our guru talking about what constitutes a recipe, and how we should never follow it blindly. So many variables at play, if you follow a recipe without being aware of its ultimate goal (taste great), you might be doomed for failure. I strongly suggest you visit her post and watch the short video.

These roasted parsnips and pears are a perfect example of Pepin’s wise lesson.  First of all, I think of all fruits, pears might be the most finicky to cook with. So many different kinds, if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use, you could already be set for trouble. Plus, even if a specific type is called for, its level of ripeness will have a huge impact on the outcome. In my first time making this dish, I used regular white pears with light green skin. They were ripe, not overly so, but definitely ripe. What happened is that they were a bit too soft once the parsnips were perfectly cooked. The taste was superb, but had I thought more carefully about it, I would have added the pears a mere 10 minutes before serving time. On my next attempt, I intend to use Bosc pears and roast them from the beginning with the parsnips. They are very sturdy and will stand better to the oven. But don’t let this small detail prevent you from making this unusual veggie roast. It turned out spectacular, paired very well with a juicy, medium-rare standing rib roast, lovingly prepared by my perfect match.

dinner-served

And now, let’s talk radishes, shall we? Let’s suppose when you see a bag of radishes you look the other way, and your lips pucker a little just thinking of how harsh they are. Do not let that prevent you from making this. Talk about a full transformation by heat, that’s what it is. Magic in radish form.

roasted-radishes

ROASTED RADISHES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bag of radishes (or any amount to serve two)
olive oil to coat
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
water
squirt of lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400F.

Cut each radish in half, if you have very large ones in the bag, quarter them.  Place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil to coat them. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Place as a single layer on a baking dish, add about one tablespoon of water, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, moving them around occasionally, until fully tender and starting to get golden brown.  Squirt lemon juice right before serving, not too much, just a light drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I own several cookbooks that include recipes for braised radishes.  I promptly ignored them all. Who would braise a radish, I kept asking myself? Radishes are supposed to be enjoyed raw. Thin slices over baguette smeared with the best possible quality butter, seasoned with salt flakes. That is the way it’s done. So, why did I finally roast these babies? I was browsing a forum on ketogenic recipes, and people were going nuts about them. Granted, it was a more substantial version, one that goes around the net as “Loaded Radishes.”  It is radishes plus olive oil plus butter plus cheese plus bacon. I kid you not. I was not that interested in the super high fat content, but what intrigued me was that every single person who made it compared the radishes to potatoes in taste. Gone was the sharp, almost bitter taste that makes radish… a radish!  I had to find out if they were onto something, so I more or less used the steam-roasted method of my recent past, and came up with this recipe. It is absolutely delicious, and yes, think about very light potatoes, and you’ll be on the right taste path. Of course, braised radishes will be on our menu very soon. I just know I’ll fall in love with them too…

Note to self: a mind open is a beautiful mind.

two-takes-on-roasted-veggies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Kadoo Boranee: Butternut Squash Perfection

TWO YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli Soup with Toasted Almonds

THREE YEARS AGO:
 Fennel and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Festive Pomegranate Dessert

FIVE YEARS AGO: My First Award!

SIX YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs

FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE RECIPE: JANUARY 2017

For many years I was a member of The Secret Recipe Club, and of course we all miss the excitement of posting our chosen recipe on the first Monday of the month.  After the club ended, Sid came up with a nice idea: we would post our favorite recipe from the previous month. Not necessarily the most popular by views or comments, but our own favorite. So here I am to reveal my personal winner for December.  Pistachio Creme Brûllée.  I simply loved everything about this one!  Yes, it calls for an ingredient that is not that easy to find (pistachio paste), but sometimes we need to fight through clouds to see the bright sun behind it.

Sid opened the collection with her own favorite, a Gingered Cranberry Chutney Compote… mouth-watering!

pistachio-creme-brulle

For the recipe and details about it, follow this link. 

 Follow the link below to see the favorite recipes from my virtual friends.

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

HAPPY NEW YEAR IN MY KITCHEN!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY READERS!

flowers

It’s been three long months since I last invited you for a virtual tour of our kitchen, the event initiated by Celia and now hosted by Lizzy from Bizzy Lizzy Good Things. So, tighten your seat belts, because there are lots of goodies to talk about…

Starting with gifts…

I am not sure this qualifies as a gift, but I will go with it. I entered a drawing over at Lisa is Cooking a couple of months ago, and to my absolute delight, I won!  It is a gorgeous, oval-shaped All-Clad pan, perfect to sear and cook fish.  It is so beautiful, I smile every time I look at it…  Not only it works great for its intended purpose, but I’ve used it to sear halloumi cheese. O.M.G. Wait for a blog post on that one…

panThank you so much, Lisa!  Love the pan….

From our dear friend Ines…

doriecookbook

A classic cookbook from the one and only Dorie Greenspan… A must-have for sure, I know I would be getting it at some point. Resistance would be futile. But now I don’t need to. HA!

From our friends Denise and Hélio, shipped all the way from England…

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The best chocolate in the world! Valrhona, in different levels of cocoa, to match your mood… or your recipe!  Such a thoughtful gift… The only problem is preventing “someone” from devouring one bar or two when I’m not paying attention.

From C & C, the coolest couple in L.A.

vodka

A set of soapstone vodka drinking glasses. Phil loves Chopin vodka, and they also sent a huge bottle. The glasses are from a company I like a lot, Uncommon Goods. Check them out, they have very unique things.

From my sister Norma, back in Brazil….

mustard

A gourmet mustard, infused with a very special Brazilian fruit, called “jabuticaba.”  I love the fruit, and the mustard is superb!  It has a delicate touch of sweetness, and the taste is quite unique.

 

From my niece Raquel back in Brazil…

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A beautifully crafted box for my teas!  The top mimics the pattern of the sidewalks in Rio de Janeiro, every Brazilian recognizes that pattern… Looks like waves…  And now my teas are in perfect order!

From my perfect match…

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Two more coffee mugs from our favorite pottery artist, Mary Rose Young…  He keeps searching on ebay, and I keep welcoming them in our kitchen…

My Christmas gift to myself… just because….

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This little teapot has a thermometer on the lid, and you can brew each type of tea (green, herbal, black) at the optimal temperature. It is very stylish, and works like a charm…. I am in love!

 

holidays


In our kitchen…

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A few exotic ingredients I got over at the Oriental market we have in town. For the most part inspired by a couple of cookbooks I am in love with: The Saffron Tales and Taste of Persia. I got black chickpeas, culinary grade rose petals (swoon), pomegranate seeds powder (how could I resist?) and a couple of spices that are very important in Middle Eastern cuisine: angelica powder and advieh (Persian spice mix). Can hardly wait to play with them all…

In our kitchen…

pinksalt
I
‘ve heard a lot of good things about this store called “The Spice Lab.” But their stuff is very expensive. The other day I stopped at Tuesday Morning in town, and was surprised to find this big bottle of Himalayan salt for sale, very cheap. It has black pepper in it. Sprinkled on top of flank steak cooked medium-rare it is to die for.

In our kitchen…

crackers

These are some tasty crackers! Served with home-made hummus it is a garbanzo bean feast for your taste buds… Love it. I think they have several kinds, I’ve seen it plain and this one with black olives. Salty, quite addictive. If you have a chance to grab a bag, go for it.

In our kitchen…

freekeh

A new (to me) grain that I bought after my friend Elaine raved about it. Still waiting to try my first recipe for it, I am sure it’s something I’ll love. You can use it as you would farro, for instance, in stews, as a risotto type prep, or even cold in salads. Stay tuned.

In our kitchen…

napkins

Holiday napkins… How could I resist these? Look at that doggie! Poise and elegance, just like our pups… Well, maybe not quite…

In our kitchen…

redplatter

A red platter found at Marshalls. It was love at first sight. They had it with a reduced price tag, I paid 5 bucks for it, if you can believe it. It is so festive, perfect for the holiday season, but I will be of course using it all year-long.

In our kitchen…

butterscotch
Butterscotch extract. Yes, you read it correctly. This heaven in a bottle exists. One word for you, macarons. Are you smiling yet?

In our kitchen…

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Four perfectly round low-carb Ricotta, Lemon & Lavender pancakes, a recipe I was very excited to try on a Saturday after a nice, albeit a bit chilly morning run. Oh, you only see an empty plate? What’s up with that, you may ask?

Full disclosure: Said pancakes were left unattended for 3 and a half minutes while I went upstairs to grab my phone to take a picture of them. I should add they were in the center of the island, a spot that we considered safe from canine paws. We were proven wrong. A certain dalmatian that attends by the name of Bogey Quit That managed to push the plate with his nose (at least that’s what we think), all the way to the edge of the countertop, to very efficiently wolf them down.  And then you wonder why my hair gets a bit more gray each month (sigh).

Finally, very recently in our kitchen…

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Great friends reunited, even if only for a few hours…

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Due to a lengthy series of canine-induced grievances, I seriously considered banning the four-legged creatures from showing up in this segment of In My Kitchen. But then…

oskypeter11Sir, you seem like such a nice man…
Could you please convince Mom to let us say hello to her readers? 

Reluctantly, then… I complied.

bogeythief

I have nothing to add. Still hurts me to remember.

Oscar cannot reach countertops and to be honest, he doesn’t care that much about food, which is pretty odd. But he causes grievances in other ways… like trying to dig his way to China from our backyard, forcing his humans to halt dinner preparation and deal with the muddy mess.

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Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about!
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Buck managed to hurt his front paw helping his brother in his path to China, so we put some booties on his paws to prevent him from licking the antibiotic ointment off. He was not thrilled.

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His first attempts at walking with those booties were hilarious, poor thing, but he got used to them in a few minutes. Check it out here.

Giving Bogey a bath is a workout in itself, because to dry him, you gotta catch him first. Sounds a lot easier than it is… Glad I was not the one in charge!
bogeybathHe does look great once he is squeaky clean!
😉

Oscar insists that he cleans up better than his brother.

oskyclean

But Buck is putting up a fight for the pole position…

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I will let you be the judge of it, not taking sides!

Bogey has been bad lately. Really bad. From eating a bar of soap, to snatching my special pancakes, but the worst, the worst I shall tell you later. Never in a million years, we could imagine… well, I’ll stop here. You will have to wait for it.

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Now, if you want to see three dogs on their very best behavior, all it takes is a sirloin steak, cooked medium rare, and Phil going at it with a knife.

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That’s all, folks!  We all wish you a wonderful 2017!

We promise to be back with more cooking, more bread baking, more canine grievances, and throw in some cake baking to keep the adrenaline high…

😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen: Happy New Year!

TWO YEARS AGO: And another year starts…

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen: January 2014

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tacos with Pork in Green Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Maui New Year!

SIX YEARS AGO: Natural Beauty

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Rye

THE COMPLICIT CONSPIRACY OF ALCOHOL

What do these cartoons have in common?

picmonkey-image

They all send a message that drinking is fun, actually not just fun, needed to cope with today’s world. The message is so prevalent, so strongly shared in social media, on TV, in movies and in our social lives that we barely take notice.  We barely stop to think that something might be wrong with it.

This is not an easy post to write, as it feels like swimming against a strong current. Let me start with my own experience on the subject. My college years were all alcohol-free and the friends I hung out at the time with were not interested in drinking. Then I started dating the man who became my first husband. He absolutely loved wine and other libations. I tried my first glass of wine around age 24; I could take it or leave it as far as taste was concerned, but I embraced the practice for the fun aspects that came with it. Drinking became a part of my social life and I never worried about it.  Except for having to deal with the eventual drunk friend or relative, but they ended up more as harmless annoyances, nothing I was overly concerned with.  Plus, “they” were not “me”, so all was fine in my own Private Idaho.

In the past few years, I noticed that my tolerance for alcohol started to sharply decrease. Whereas in the past I could indulge in a mixed drink before dinner, then a glass or two of wine with my meal, and still have a normal morning next day, as I got older doing the same caused a hangover that pretty much ruined my next day.  Two glasses of wine with dinner became the maximum I can drink, but sometimes even that makes me a bit unwell. You might say “… so what? Stick with one glass and don’t worry about it.”  But, the realization of how harmful just a little more might be for my body got me thinking. Could drinking – even at a moderate level – be doing me more harm than good?  How could I be sure? Shouldn’t I listen to the signs my body kept sending me?  I also started to question my reasons for drinking. I decided to go on a personal experiment and quit drinking for a couple of months. While doing so it became evident the power of the alcohol industry. I read a lot on the subject, from the benefits of drinking (heavily shared around in social media) to its negative side-effects (barely mentioned in those venues), and about the advertising strategies and profits of the alcohol industry.  And now here I am to share my thoughts.

I don’t intend to turn myself or anyone else into a teetotaler. Or to be judgmental about those who drink a little or a lot. I simply hope that we can all be more attentive to – and perhaps take a stance against –  the constant bombardment of alcohol advertising, which, by the way, now heavily targets women.  It portrays alcohol as a harmless substance, supposed to make your life fun and sophisticated. It is supposed to make you tolerate the stresses of your day, and  surf more smoothly through social interactions, especially if they feel awkward to start with.  The alcohol industry clearly prefers to place the burden of any negative effect of drinking on the shoulders of the “bad drinkers.” They, the pitiful alcoholics. We all subscribe to this view, by the way. That is neither fair nor accurate. In reality, the problems reside on the substance itself.  Alcohol is a toxin that your body immediately needs to  degrade once you ingest it. No matter how little you drink, your liver works extra to deal with it. Alcohol is addictive (not just for alcoholics), and as far as its danger ranking for society, it is worse than heroine and other illicit drugs (on a scale of 100, alcohol ranks 72, whereas heroine ranks  55 and crack 54, see this article).  In reality, moderate drinking, the kind that advocates portray as having positive effects on the cardiovascular system, is not what many drinkers are doing, particularly us women. Keep in mind that for women, moderate drinking is considered a maximum of 5 ounces of wine per day and even such low-level is a matter of debate. Anything more and the risks outweigh the benefits. Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, and that is not simply an effect of body mass.  Often couples (yours truly included) will happily share  a bottle of wine with their dinner in the name of pleasure and supposed health benefits. We keep doing it, while  mentally assembling all the arguments that make it sound like a risk-free thing.  And the arguments seem to make sense. Come to think of it, the cartoons and funny jokes finally place women as equals with men on the drinking stage. Wow, that is some sociological victory! 😉

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I know that many people will read my post and react against it, claiming “I don’t have/see a problem.” True, probably you don’t.  But, our society does. Under age drinking is another serious problem made harder to deal with due to the influence of social media that enables advertisement by peers without any regulation (reviewed here). So, yes, maybe you are not affected directly by it. But someone you love might be. Maybe a son or a daughter, who at some point will be exposed to the Siren’s Song of the alcohol industry, that actually relies on the very existence of alcoholics for most of their profit.  Kids will go to college, turn 21, and in the US they will encounter the tradition of binge drinking. Maybe your own kids won’t partake, but they may suffer the consequences of being around those who do. No matter our own personal experience, our control and confidence in our own judgement, we should not close our eyes to the careless and irresponsible advertisement of drinking that happens today.  Not only direct, but also indirect advertisements.  I suggest you pay close attention to sitcoms, TV shows in general, and once you do, you will be shocked by the widespread underlying message of drinking as equal to living the good life. Today’s alcohol industry is exactly like the cigarette industry decades ago. We fought against them to stop false advertising, to stop selling the association of smoking with a great time. Why do we grant the alcohol industry a free pass to lie to us? Why do we help their cause by sharing cute jokes and spreading articles that reinforce the fun but look away when scientific data offer a different perspective?

The “responsible drinking” lie. Did you know that alcoholics account for 47% of the profits of alcohol sales? Just think about that for a second. The consequence of this fact is that the industry has no interest in moderate drinking, or in articles that warn about the dangers of drinking. Instead, their goal is to make sure that the proportion of heavy drinkers stays at the current level or even grows to protect their profits.  Like everything else, it’s all about the money.  They completely disregard a few annoying facts like: alcohol has been linked to about 200 illnesses  (World Health Organization, 2014); alcohol is associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx (organs that alcohol directly contacts), liver, and breast  (National Cancer Institute). Some individuals become addicted to alcohol from the first taste, for reasons not well understood, probably genetics is involved (I could not find precise statistics about it). That’ should be enough to give us all a pause. What if that person is someone you deeply care about? A nephew, a niece, a sibling. Drinking does not make problems go away or life easier. It does not make us happier or more fun and interesting in conversations.  However, most people believe that it does (I am not excluding myself, it is a very ingrained belief), and the alcohol industry is more than willing to feed those beliefs. Why wouldn’t they? It keeps their sales up.

quoteSo, what’s my point? My main message is that alcohol demands more attention and respect for what it really is:  a toxin with addictive properties.  Approach it with the caution it deserves. Consider real instead of pseudo-moderation. Talk to your kids about it in those terms. Be aware of the false aura behind it,  even if you think you are totally immune to it.  You may want to look into the role that drinking has in your own life.  Does it help you deal with stress …  is that the way you’d like your kids to face stress too?  Do you need it to have fun socially … is that the way you’d like your kids to approach it too?  We must acknowledge and deal with the darker side of drinking in honest terms.  I’ve had my share of encounters with people I admire, respect and love, but noticed with some sadness that they turn into different versions of themselves when drinking.  Sometimes they become overly argumentative, aggressive or depressed, only because they drank over a certain threshold.  Alcohol-induced happiness can be fleeting. And what comes after ranges from mildly annoying to sad, to ugly, all the way up to dangerous. Drinking and driving is one example, as are arguments, fights, black outs, the list is long, you get the picture. I once said things I regretted, because wine made me lose some self-control. It involved politics and interactions with a conservative couple. Even today, 15 years later, I don’t like to remember that evening. But still, that episode made me feel the dark side beneath my own skin.

Now back to my personal experiment. For starters, t shocked me how much better I felt once I stopped having alcohol with dinner, particularly considering that I didn’t drink that much and not even every evening.  Gone was a persistent, low-level headache that forced me to take a couple of aspirins a few times a week.  Gone was waking up in the morning with bags and puffiness under my eyes, and a sort of pale complexion. Lastly, I have renewed energy late at night, and sleep better too. Those are nice, unexpected bonuses.  Because I get  up early, I thought that being exhausted by 10 pm was normal.  Feeling overall quite a bit better makes it trickier to justify going back to drinking. For the time being I am surfing through these new waters, with a “naked” mind.  Honestly, I don’t know what I will do in the long run. I believe in moderation for everything, so quitting alcohol forever seems too drastic and not at all what I had in mind when I started my “experiment.”  The bottom line is, I am conflicted and struggling to find my own balance. That’s all I can say for now. So, if you wanted all the answers, I am sorry to disappoint you, I don’t have them. Not yet, that is…

But I am not at all conflicted about my views on the alcohol industry and the need to fight against it. All alcohol bottles should come with better warning labels, just as cigarettes now do, more than “Alcohol…may cause health problems.”  The health warnings should be as bold and restrictive as they are for cigarettes. The more aware we become, the less alcohol will harm us as a society.

To close this post, I will share two links. One takes you to a book that is sure to help people struggling with alcoholism or who have a hard time moderating their consumption.  It is called, This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace.  Even if you drink in moderation, the book is worth reading. The second link takes you to an article in The Washington Post, that I read when I was about 75% done writing this post. I was pleasantly surprised to see my views confirmed by others much more qualified than me to talk about the subject. I suggest you at least watch the short video included in the article, pretty interesting, she is quite articulate.

And just to end on a happier note, here is a pretty festive drink. It has a negligible amount of alcohol with the drops of bitters, but they add a nice kick to the taste. Do not omit them.

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CRANBERRY BLISS: Place a few glass cubes inside a tall glass. Add 1/4 of pure cranberry juice, 5 drops of bitters (any kind you like, Angostura for instance), fill the glass with 3/4 sparkling water. Drink and enjoy!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

THREE YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

SIX YEARS AGO: Gougeres

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night